Abortive medications: medications used to interrupt or stop the attack of a severe migraine or headache as well as all symptoms (pain, sensitivity to light etc.).
Acupuncture: An ancient Chinese practice of inserting and manipulating fine needles into various points on the body to relieve pain or for therapeutic purposes. Acupuncture stimulates the body’s ability to resist or overcome illnesses and conditions by correcting energy imbalances. Acupuncture also prompts the body to produce chemicals that decrease or eliminate painful sensations.
Acute: sudden; occurs quickly and generally, without warning.
Acute headaches: headaches that occur suddenly for the first time with symptoms that subside after a relatively short period of time. They are usually due to an illness, infection, cold, or fever.
Adrenaline (epinephrine): the neurotransmitter of the adrenal gland that is secreted in moments of crisis. It stimulates the heart to beat faster and work harder, increases the flow of blood to the muscles, causes an increased alertness of mind, and produces other changes to prepare the body to meet an emergency. It is also a chemical messenger in the brain.
Analgesic: pain-relieving medication.
Analgesic-rebound headache: see rebound headache.
Aneurysm: a weak part of an artery that may bulge outward and occasionally rupture and bleed, leading to a condition called a subarachnoid hemorrhage which produces a severe headache and stiff neck, and can sometimes be fatal.
Anticonvulsant: a type of medication used to treat convulsive seizures, or epilepsy. Some of these types of medications are also used to prevent headaches, even when the headaches aren’t associated with seizures.
Antidepressant: a type of medication used primarily to treat depression. Some of these medications have been useful in treating headaches, even when headaches aren’t associated with depression.
Antiemetics: a class of medications used to treat nausea and/or vomiting.
Antihistamine: a drug that counteracts the action of histamine, an agent in the body that causes itching and flushing of the skin such as in an allergic reaction.
Anti-inflammatory: a type of medication used to decrease inflammation. This type of medication is most commonly used to treat the inflammation of arthritis and other inflammatory disorders, but can also be useful in reducing the pain of certain types of headaches.
Aspartame: an artificial sweetener that can cause a headache in some people.
Ataxia: impaired ability to coordinate movement. This symptom sometimes suggests a condition within the brain that may be causing headaches.
Aura: a warning sign that a migraine is about to begin. An aura usually occurs about 10 to 30 minutes before the onset of a migraine, although it can occur as early as the night before the onset. The most common auras are visual and include blurred or distorted vision; blind spots; or brightly colored, flashing or moving lights or lines. Other auras may include speech disturbances, motor weakness, or sensory changes. The duration of an aura varies, but it generally lasts less than 20 minutes.